What is the Most Difficult Hole at The Masters?

Golf Ball Sitting in BunkerFor three of the four golf Majors, it is all but impossible to figure out which hole is the most difficult. This is because the US Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship are all played at different courses every year. The Masters, meanwhile, is always played at Augusta National Golf Club in the US state of Georgia. As a result, there is a degree of consistency to things that allows us to consider which hole golfers tend to struggle with the most at Augusta which we can’t really do for the three other Majors played each year.

That is not to say that the course layout is the same every year. Things such as the position of the pin on the green are altered to make the course different each day of the Masters, let alone from one year to the next. Even so, it is much easier to get a sense of a hole’s difficulty when there are small changes made rather than the sweeping change of moving the tournament to a brand new golf course. The private course was designed by amateur champion golfer Bobby Jones and course architect Alister MacKenzie.

What is the Most Difficult Hole at the Augusta National?

Historically speaking, the 10th hole is considered the most difficult at the Augusta National Golf Course however in 2021, the 5th was the most difficult with just 7 birdies and 99 bogeys that tournament. Also in 2021, the 2nd hole was the easiest with 132 birdies and just 18 bogeys.

The History of Augusta

Augusta 16th Hole

Before we begin to explore the most difficult holes that are played at the Masters, it is worth looking at the golf course in general. Augusta National Golf Club, which is often referred to either simply as The National or else Augusta, was founded in 1932. It was the brainchild of Bobby Jones, a successful amateur golfer, and an investment banker named Clifford Roberts. The course was built on the site of an antebellum plantation called Fruitland, with Jones hoping to build a world-class course for winter golf in his home state of Georgia.

Unfortunately for Jones and Roberts, the Great Depression alongside the remote location of the state of Georgia meant that membership was low during the first decade of the new club’s existence. They had hoped to build a course for ladies in addition to tennis and squash courts, but these plans had to be put on hold as a result of the financial shortfall. Ed Dudley was installed as the club professional, having won 15 wins on the PGA Tour and becoming known as one of the top tournament pros of his era.

The lack of membership and the financial constraints that Roberts and Jones found themselves under led the pair to come up with a way of attracting more visitors to the course. They did this by hosting a tournament that they hoped would see crowds and players turn up at the golf course, with Roberts persuading Jones to come out of retirement in order to make it more popular. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie were invited to Augusta in 1948, with Eisenhower becoming a member and helping to shore up its popularity.

Augusta National Golf Course

Azaleas at Augusta National

By Dan Perry, flickr

Augusta is known for its impeccable appearance, which has been maintained over the years thanks to the likes of pine needles being imported, ponds dyed blue and birdsong played over speakers that are hidden around the course. There are rules in place for both golfers and spectators, including no running or loud talking being permitted. There is a 90,000 square-foot non-public shopping and dining complex on-site called Berckmans Place, which opened in 2012 and only opens for the week of the Masters, with entry passes costing as much as $10,000 for the week.

The course was built on a former plant nursery and each of the holes is named after a tree or shrub that it has become associated with. At the time of writing, this is the list of holes and their names:

  • 1 – Tea Olive
  • 2 – Pink Dogwood
  • 3 – Flowering Peach
  • 4 – Flowering Crab Apple
  • 5 – Magnolia
  • 6 – Juniper
  • 7 – Pampas
  • 8 – Yellow Jasmine
  • 9 – Carolina Cherry
  • 10 – Camellia
  • 11 – White Dogwood
  • 12 – Golden Bell
  • 13 – Azalea
  • 14 – Chinese Fir
  • 15 – Firethorn
  • 16 – Redbud
  • 17 – Nandina
  • 18 – Holly

The greens on the golf course are maintained in order to provide a quick and hard surface. There is an underground ventilation and irrigation system, the SubAir System, which was installed in 1994 and ensures that the greens remain in top-class condition all year round. The bunkers have a granulated quartz in them rather than traditional sand. The second shot taken at the 11th as well as all of the 12th and the first two shots taken on the 13th are known as Amen Corner, on account of the fact that that is where the most exciting golf is played.

The Trickiest Holes

Ask any golfer that has played at Augusta and they’ll tell you that it is a brutally hard course to get around. Whilst there are more than a few birdie opportunities, there are also plenty of holes in which even the world’s best golfers will be happy to have a par on their card. Of course, what the pros playing the course will consider to be tricky and what an average golfer might think it a tough hole will be completely different things. As it is only the professionals that get to take part in the Masters, we’re going to go with their scores.

The 2021 Masters

The Masters has plenty of information about how the course played in 2021. Alongside the actual par for each hole, we can look at how many eagles, birdies, pars, bogies and double bogies or over were scored by the golfers that played in the tournament that year. In addition, we can also explore the average score achieved over the four rounds of golf. Rather than break these down into individual rounds, we are instead going to look at the totals for 2021 in order to explore which holes were considered to be the easiest and hardest. For context, we will also put the all-time cumulative average shots taken per hole:

Scoring By Hole at the 2021 Masters

Hole Par Average Shots (2021) All-Time Average Shots Eagles Birdies Pars Bogeys Double Bogeys+
1 4 4.22 4.24 0 17 194 65 6
2 5 4.55 4.78 7 132 125 18 0
3 4 3.90 4.08 0 80 158 38 6
4 3 3.31 3.28 0 9 186 81 6
5 4 4.43 4.26 0 7 162 99 14
6 3 3.17 3.14 1 24 192 57 8
7 4 4.30 4.15 0 20 167 87 8
8 5 4.62 4.83 7 118 131 26 0
9 4 4.11 4.14 0 41 181 50 10
10 4 4.22 4.30 0 34 161 81 6
11 4 4.40 4.30 0 15 156 98 13
12 3 3.11 3.28 0 38 187 46 11
13 5 4.62 4.78 8 131 112 23 8
14 4 4.01 4.17 0 45 191 43 3
15 5 4.76 4.77 6 111 126 28 11
16 3 2.99 3.14 1 55 180 39 7
17 4 4.19 4.16 0 30 173 74 5
18 4 4.14 4.23 0 35 178 63 6

That table gives us a good sense of how tricky the holes were in 2021, with the average number of shots taken on each hole generally coming in at similar figures to the all-time average shots. That suggests that there were no major outliers in 2021, meaning that it is a good year to look at in terms of learning which hole has been the hardest over the years.

Which Hole Was The Hardest in 2021?

In order to figure out which hole has been the hardest, it is helpful to come up with a system. For every eagle scored, we have assigned -2 points. For every birdie, that becomes -1, whilst each par is given no points. For every bogey we have given 1 point, with 2 points given for every double bogey or worse. As a result, we’ve been able to come up with a score for each hole played in 2021, with scores in the negative being considered easier and scores in the positive begin the tougher holes. Here’s how it works out:

Masters 2021 Holes Ranked by Difficulty

Hole System Score
5 120
11 109
4 84
7 83
1 60
10 59
17 54
6 47
18 40
12 30
9 29
14 4
16 -4
3 -30
15 -73
8 -106
13 -108
2 -128

The system assigns 0 points for par as it is, quite literally, par for the course. The -2 awarded for eagles and -1 for birdies helps to identify which of the holes is easiest for players to do well on, whilst the +1 for bogeys and +2 for double bogeys or worse draws attention to the holes that the majority of players struggled with the most. As a consequence, we can see that the fifth was the most difficult on the course in 2021. The average number of shots coming in at 4.4326 compared to the all-time average of 4.26 suggests it was only slightly tougher than any other year.

Historically speaking, it is probably the 10th that has been the hardest, boasting an average 4.3, with the highest average being 4.69 in 1956 and the lowest being 4.08 in 2018. The fifth, on the other hand, saw its length increased by 40 yards prior to the 2019 Masters, suggesting that it will be on the toughest holes moving forward and replacing the 10th for the foreseeable.